Friday, January 23, 2015

Number 1687: A dandy Dan Dare

Today we have a science fiction adventure that, while also fanciful, was produced during a time when rocketry and space were entering into the public consciousness as part of a viable future of science and technology. Dan Dare, a famous and lavishly drawn strip from the UK which appeared in the weekly Eagle paper, represented that interest.

This particular strip is from Eagle Annual #7 (no date, but I estimate about 1957). It was beautifully drawn and painted by Frank Hampson. You can read more about Hampson and his creation, even see a British Pathé short feature on him, in the link provided under these scans to a 2011 Pappy's post.

More Hampson Dan Dare and the promised video. Just click on the thumbnail.


Daniel [] said...

This is the first British comic-book story from before about 1975 that didn't make me wonder why British youth didn't rise-up, kill all the adults, and burn their civilization to the ground for serving-up dreck as comic books.

Pappy said...

Daniel, if the Luftwaffe couldn't kill everyone and burn the British civilization to the ground, then I think they were safe from comic paper readers of the day.

There was a time, though, that the British were alarmed about another invasion...American crime and horror comics! Symbolically, the authorities sent up their planes to shoot down that invasion before those comics did the job of rotting their youth's minds.

(Rock 'n' roll got to them instead.)

Anonymous said...

Rocketships in a race! I can just hear the ships squealing as they strain on that tight turn around the far side of the moon. I doubt would have thought of it, myself. Not every shelf could hold that trophy.

Wonderful art, great characterizations, entertaining stories. That short video on the artist, Frank Hampson,, good to see. Artwork like this generally takes a lot of visual reference from props and models —and so it was. Thanks!

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

I think Mr. Pappy's right, and this reminds me that Adolf Hitler loathed comics (unlike Mussolini, who "spared" Mickey Mouse - Topolino from the banishment of non-italian comics (an aspect of the policy called "Autarchia") because his children loved it.
An interesting fun (well, more or less) fact is that Hal Foster's Tarzan was rechristened "Sigfrido" by his italian publishers (implying german ancestors, bye bye Lord Greystoke) to try to appease the Ministry of Popular Culture. I think Secret Agent X9 and Mandrake also had similar misadventures, but I'm not sure now.
I like Dan Dare, very "pictorial".
Do you know another English sci-fi strip (1955-1974) called "Jeff Hawke" and drawn by scottish author Sidney Jordan? It was one of my most beloved comics, very satyrical, in a Shakespeare style (writer William Patterson was a devotee of Shakespeare), and it had the most funny and lovable non-human-shaped aliens I've ever seen. Very popular in Italy in the 70's.
I guess Daniel is referring to 2000 AD when he says "before about 1975". Well that's another story. I guess those Punks DID want to kill (metaphorically) the adults.

Pappy said...

J D, I'll let Daniel speak for himself, but it was my impression also that he meant the comic 2000 AD.

I've never read what Hitler thought of comics, although he did love American movies, especially Disney, Snow White being a favorite of his. (I think Gustav Tenggren's wonderful 19th century fairy tale designs had something to do with it.)

Hitler also loved Gone With the Wind, and I read once he would watch it with an interpreter over his shoulder, translating the dialogue. Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn what movies he liked, I have always wondered what the Japanese and Germans thought of the depictions of them as a people if and when they saw American comic books.

Pappy said...

7f7, your note brings up a thought I have often had about science fiction of space travel, even when it used hard science for its basis: they ignored the costs. Launches and equipment are really, really expensive. Yes, I know that aspect is being worked on by allowing private entrepreneurs to enter the space business, but I doubt it will ever be cheap enough to allow such frivolous stuff as a race around the moon and back.

Since this is a comic we are allowed our little fantasies.

Anonymous said...

Another fun fantasy here: the ham radio kid gets the message from the kid in space (short wave would do that? I know it gets bounced by the atmosphere…) and instead of phoning in the message, which would be my first thought, the kid tears off with a helicopter back pack to deliver in person. Zowie! That's kid-eye-opening flare —that's the way to do it in comics, all right. I really enjoy this strip. Thanks for the posts. My vote is, do some more Dan Dare.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Speaking of Hitler, comics and Jerry Siegel, I think this may be (or may be not) of some interest:

At first, I found it quite... exhilarating: the S.S. analizing a Superman comic!.
But then I realized Propaganda is a serious matter: there was a propaganda war, also, and comics heroes were enlisted on both sides (not in Germany, where comics were banished). The way Germans, Italians and Japanese were depicted in American comics was, I think, part of the Allied Propaganda, mixed with the inevitable racism of that era. Italians and Japanese had their "comic propaganda fighters" ("Romano il Legionario", "Norakuro-Kun").

Daniel [] said...

I wasn't thinking of 2000 AD in particular, though there's probably an underlying causal relation.

In the early '70s, I was first exposed to various British comic books of that time and earlier, and thought them pretty universally wretched. I've since seen more from that span, and mostly still thought them wretched. Much of it is like children's “pantomime” theatre (“ooer!”, “diddled!”), if the playwright were an alcoholic who loathed his audience. The serious stuff is stale, pretentious, and notably autistic.

Granted that Sturgeon's Law applies all-around, and American comic books have their (large!) share of rubbish. But I just didn't see happy exceptions (until this Dan Dare story) from the UK.

I haven't been moved to make a study of what came later, but stumbled upon later work that was considerably better.

Pappy said...

Daniel, amongst some British comic fans there is nostalgia. See Blimey! It's Another Blog About Comics! from Lew Stringer.

My impression, from working in a bookstore with a comics department in the mid-to-late '70s and seeing some of the British comics come through our distributor, is that they were infected with Marvelitis, a disease characterized by endless and repetitive action amongst costumed people, fistfights and "loud" onomatopoeia.

Pappy said...

727, I would if I could; but those two Dan Dare episodes I showed were the best examples I had of Frank Hampson's work.

In the mid-'70s 2000 AD had an update to the Dare strip, but it just does not interest me as Hampson's does.

Pappy said...

J D, that is a fascinating article. Such was the climate of the era that the author made a big deal out of Superman's creator(s) being Jewish. It is true that much of the entertainment industry in America in the 20th century had Jewish origins.

Propaganda, as I have been told, is a loaded word, yet is used loosely. My idea of the propaganda we are speaking of here is to sell the idea to the home crowd that an enemy is less than human. That was the agenda of the movies and comics during World War II. Having Jewish people making the movies and publishing the comic books was probably an added incentive to dehumanize.

Not only the Nazis, but German-born Dr. Fredric Wertham, M.D., a German emigrant who came to the U.S. in the 1920s, thought (and I'm paraphrasing from his book, Seduction Of the Innocent) that Superman was a Nazi ideal, and the only thing missing was the second "S" on his chest. Everyone had an opinion.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

@Daniel: I don't want to be annoying, but I think you should check "Jeff Hawke".
It is a profound, intelligent comic, great sci-fi like Dan Dare, plus it has humor and irony without being pompous or pretentious, at least as long as Willie Patterson was the writer. Theatre, yes, but great theatre.

Daniel [] said...

J D—

I don't find your suggestion annoying. I'd be happy to find more exceptions to what I've seen so far.

Paddy Brown said...

I suspect Hampson probably didn't have much to do with this particular strip. He drove himself to ill-health working on the weekly strip (two full-colour pages a week) with the assistance of a studio of four or five artists, who also made models for reference, posed as the characters and so on. Drawing for annuals he would probably have delegated almost entirely to the studio.

Weird fact about British comics - the better the work, the less likely to be preserved. The best work was in the newspaper strips - Jeff Hawke has been mentioned - and very little of it has been collected. The next best was in the weeklies, which were printed on newsprint and rarely collected. The annuals, which were indestructible hardbacks with good printing on good paper, contain mostly filler. Hampson was a perfectionist, so even filler work by his studio was pretty good.

Matt Emery said...

Depending on your taste there were some amazing comics pre-2000AD. Jeff Hawke as J_D mentioned is a gorgeous strip, Don Lawrence's Trigan Empire is a painted epic, Modesty Blaise is good fun reading - very non pc by todays standards in a good way.

Maybe some of the pre-1977 2000AD storytelling is a bit quaint by todays standards in the weeklies but still a lot of beautiful English and European art.

Frank Bellamy's Dan Dare is worth a look too.

Daniel [] said...

I note that I was explicitly writing of comic books from the UK. I'd seen some appealing British comic strips from quite far back.